Lined up again the paint-chipped walls of the Troubadour on Santa Monica Boulevard, fans of the Los Angeles based band have set up camp. Chips, bottles of Dr. Pepper and vegan friendly snacks hold these kids over as some are hitting their third hour of waiting for entry into the venue for Letlive.’s much anticipated record release show. The Blackest Beautiful will be the post-hardcore band’s third studio release in three years since Fake History.
Forty minutes before the doors open, a silver Audi pulls up alongside the curb revealing Letlive. frontman, Jason Aalon Butler. He hops out to personally hug and greet his fans. He shares a few hellos, pictures and embraces before sliding back into the passenger seat. That brief fan interaction is just a snapshot into what will later come from Butler. Soon enough, after shuffling through the line, double takes on I.D. checks and wristbands are secured; people immediately split up and execute their game plans. There are the fans who immediately aim to score the merch table before vinyls or their shirt size are all sold out; you also have the brave, front-row spectators who are adamant about being so close. Everything about the set up at the Troubadour is perfect. Merch tables are located right by the entrance in a side bar with the designated restrooms, whereas the main room houses the stage and a full upstairs balcony lines the walls for VIP. While taking it all in, wherever you decide to stand from, you won’t miss a piece of the action.
On the bill opening are two California based bands, both of which Letlive. asked personally to come out for support: Hail the Sun and A Lot Like Birds. The word circulating is that both bands have the same management, but were both independently selected for the show. Hail the Sun kicks off the set first by taking their places on stage, acknowledging the crowd and immediately start jamming. Frontman and drummer, Donovan Melero, truly catches you off guard with perfected multitasking of precision timing and clean vocals. Their set mainly consisted of songs off their EP, Elephantiasis and a Circa Survive influence is obvious. If you did not know any better, you could easily mistake Melero’s vocals with that of Anthony Green.
A Lot Like Birds take to the stage with a much heavier sound. Two vocalists, Kurt Travis from Dance Gavin Dance and Cory Lockwood, compliment each other on the stage– with Travis’ melodic vocals and Lockwood’s ambient screams. The post-hardcore band helps the crowd stretch their restless legs as mosh pits stir the crowd every so often. Breakdown after breakdown, elbows, a pair of Vans skate shoes and a possible hair extension find their way into the air. With no further ado, A Lot Like Birds give a shout out to Hail the Sun and introduce the men of the hour, Letlive.
As the previous band’s equipment gets cleared off, bodies push forward for a better spot. A white backdrop appears behind the drum kit and a sound bit of what seems to be Louis Armstrong singing tries and fails to fight over the loud chants calling for Letlive. What first appeared to be a swarm of lost, gothic dressed fans turns out to be the Los Alamitos High School Choir, SoundFX, taking stage. They open up Letlive.’s set with an acapella rendition of the first two verses from “Banshee (Ghost Frame),” the first track off of The Blackest Beautiful. To use a high school choir is a great idea, but their mics are too low and they are drowned out once the percussion merged. After four repetitions of the verses, the rest of the band joins in as they take to the stage.
Frontman Butler immediately feeds his iconic stage presence to the hungry crowd below. Not even a minute into the first song, Butler launches himself into the sea of fans to crowd surf. The rawness and unpredictability of Letlive.’s live performance of The Blackest Beautiful exemplifies the much necessary justice for the record. There is some apprehension attached to the record because it sounds over-produced. The heavy energy and mixed rap vocals in their set (or as Letlive. likes to call it, soul punk) leaves no questions about the band’s message. Lyrics that touch on the nation’s corruption, health care system and the idea of faith hit even harder as fans synchronize together, punching melodic choruses. From climbing onto amps and hurling them onto the stage, Butler shows no qualms about potentially hurting himself for the sake of his act.
Regardless of how Butler might come across on stage with his sporadic antics, he and his bandmates prove to be fully aware of their fans. Seeing a struggling female crowd surfer, Butler pauses during a chorus to help pull her onto the stage. The type of immediate response and responsibility the band possesses over their fans is something most probably cannot say they have witnessed from other acts in awhile. Usually, it is the typical “suck it up, it comes with the territory” mentality, but Letlive. quickly reminds how “punk’s not dead, punk is about taking care of each other.”
Letlive. decide to perform a track called “Muther,” off of their 2010 album Fake History, which depicts Butler finding his mother in bed with another man. Butler tries to break down the dynamic of the song before heading straight into it. Some find it as useful, to better understand the song, but if you haven’t been paying attention to the lyrics by now, where have you been? Nevertheless, the appreciative and gratuitous looks upon each members’ face is humbling as they stare wondrous throughout each song, almost surprised that their fan base knows each line and where each emphasis is.
As the show comes to an end, Butler provides one more rebellious antic. Mic twisted around his neck, he crowd surfs toward the back wall and climbs to the top of the balcony. While singing the last few verses from “27 Club,” Butler thanks the fans for the abundance of support before hurling himself onto the crowd below. The combination of Letlive.’s excitement and the rambunctiousness from the crowd did fog some attention from the set list itself, but as a band who has been together for over a decade you can do whatever you want on your night. All in all, Letlive. is about the people involved in the band and those who partake in the experience itself, so go experience it.